Showing posts sorted by relevance for query easter soup. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query easter soup. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, April 5, 2010

Polish Easter Soup (Adam's version)

Polish Easter Soup
We had a tradition of everyone getting their own Easter egg. We would then partner with someone and try to crack the other person's egg. We would continue until there was only one person left with an uncracked egg. That person would have good luck for the rest of the year.
Polish Easter Soup
I like to make my own red horseradish as shown in the picture above. I cook one small beet, puree it, then add it to white orseradish. It has a much better flavor than buying a jar of red horseradish.
Polish Easter Soup
Polish Easter Soup
The pictures above are from my Easter table. The soup is more traditionally served on the Monday after Easter in Poland. Following that tradition I had it for lunch today (Monday) and it was absolutely delicious.

I always had trouble with the original version curdling on me. As I got older I also found it too vinegary for my taste. After a little experimentation I found that Cream of Mushroom Soup will work as a thickener and it doesn't curdle! Here's my version.

Polish Easter Soup (Adam's Version)

2 links smoked Polish sausage (Polska Kielbasa)
1 baked ham
1 3" piece of salt pork (optional--but I always include it)
1 dozen hard-boiled eggs (dyed)
1 loaf seeded rye bread
1 jar horseradish red or white (see note below)
1 3" piece of feta cheese (see note below)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 cans of mushroom soup
In a large soup pot, place sausage and add water to cover, about one quart. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. Every few minutes puncture sausage skin to allow juice to flow.
Remove sausage, allow broth to cool, add vinegar, and refrigerate overnight.
Bake ham. Do not add an cloves or other spices or sweet glazes and refrigerate overnight.
Cook salt pork in water until tender, about one hour and refrigerate overnight.
Cover feta cheese with milk and refrigerate overnight.
The next day skim the fat off the broth. Add mushroom soup. Whisk together until well blended. If desired, strain to remove mushrooms (I don't even worry about them any more). Bring soup just to boil, reduce temperature to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Whisk from time to time. Taste it and if too salty or vinegary you may add a can of whole milk.

Cut about 2 cups each of sausage, ham, rye bread and eggs into 1/2 inch cubes.

Rince, dry, and cut feta cheese into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cut salt pork into 1/4 inch cubes.

Arrange meats on one platter, bread, cheese and eggs on another.

In soup bowls, allow guests to combine meats, bread, cheese and eggs as desired. Add hot soup. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons horseradish as desired.

Note: I like to make my own red horseradish. I cook one small beet until soft, peel it, coarsely chop it, then put it in a blender and blend until fairly smooth. I mix the beet with a fresh jar of white horseradish. It gives the soup a pretty pink color and the beet cuts the intensity of the horseradish.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Polish Easter in Detroit, Michigan

Top row l. to r. - Vincent Wacht, Lillian (Wacht) Janowski, Edward Wacht.
Bottom row l. to r. - Adam Janowski, Jr., Marie Wacht.
Having been raised Catholic, the many traditions associated with Easter were almost more significant than Christmas.

On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, palm leaves were distributed at Mass and afterwards were often woven into intricate braided shapes and hung inside homes, usually on a crucifix or religious picture. After Palm Sunday all of the statues in the church were covered in purple tunics indicating that the disciples of Christ had fled Jerusalem.

On Holy Thursday we went to church to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples and for the blessing of the feet ceremony where the priest washed the feet of the poor. On the following day, Good Friday, we spent the hours from 12 noon to 3 in church or in silence at home. It was a double torture as mom used that time to cook all of the meat for the Easter Sunday meal. No meat would be eaten Good Friday, so the smell of ham baking and keilbasa cooking was excruciating!

On Saturday we took an Easter basket lined in linen and lace to the church to be blessed. It contained pieces of all of the food--ham, sausage, salt pork, rye bread, farmer's cheese, dyed hard-boiled eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper, that would be served on Easter Sunday. It also often included a butter carving in the shape of a lamb. The basket would be blessed so that we would have food in abundance throughout the following year.

Easter Sunday service was a glorious celebration! Everyone was dressed in new clothes and the church smelled of Easter lilies and incense. As you can see from the picture above I (the little boy with the fedora) was always a snappy dresser!

The service was followed by a festive and filling breakfast. We ate a white, slightly sour, soup, with cubes of meat, bread, cheese and eggs in the soup. Horseradish was often added to spice it up. If red horseradish was used the soup would turn a pretty pink color.

We almost always went to my visit my grandmother on my mother's side in Detroit. The dinner meal was another serving of the same type of soup followed by cake. The cake was often made by my Aunt Hattie and would be in the shape of a lamb covered in white icing and coconut. If she wasn't bringing the cake someone would by a cake from Sanders Bakery in Detroit. It would be yellow cake with buttercream icing garnished with crushed hazelnuts. We'd often add an Easter "nest" of green colored coconut with a couple of chocolate malted milk "robin's eggs".

In my next post I will be providing you with a few recipes--my sister Barbara's recipe for a traditional Easter soup, my own interpretation of it, and a recipe for an as close as I can get version of Sander's buttercream icing which did not include butter or cream.

Traditional Polish Easter Soup

People from Poland probably would not consider this as the basis of an Easter meal, but rather as a meal for Easter Monday--a time to use up the leftovers from Easter Sunday! It is, however, our family tradition because our Polish ancestors in Michigan had to go to work on Monday. It was not a holiday as it is in Poland.

This recipe comes from my sister, Barbara

Traditional Easter Soup - White Borscht (Monday Soup)

2 links smoked Polish sausage (Kielbasa)
1/2 smoked baked ham
1 quart water
3/4 cup sour cream
1 raw egg
2-3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
5-8 tablespoons white vinegar
10 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 loaf light rye bread, cubed
Farmer's white cheese, cubed
White or red horseradish

In large pot, cook kielbasa with enought water to cover. Cook about one hour piercing skin to release juices. Remove sausage. Reserve stock. This borscht is made from the water in which the smoked kielbasa was cooked. In a bowl, fork-blend 3/4 cup sour cream and raw egg with 2-3 tablespoons flour. Season to tast with salt and pepper. Blend 1 cup of warm broth and cream. Blend that into pot of stock. Cook until a gentle simmer. Do not boil (this will cause the cream to curdle). Add vinegar to taste. This soup should definitely be on the tart side so be sure to use enough vinegar. The white barszcz should be served over a bowl of diced ham, the kielbasa from which the stock was made, hard-boild egg slices, diced farmer's cheese, cubed stale rye bread, and a little freshly grated or prepared horseradish to taste.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Easter 2016

Polish and Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanki) on my Easter Table.
I enjoy displaying my pysanky (Easter Eggs), some Polish, most Ukrainian, a couple new this year. In my early 20's I bought the dyes, the beeswax, and the stylus, and created several eggs of my own. Some were in the traditional style, but I also branched out and did some modern designs as well. The process was very tedious, painstaking, and time-consuming. Sadly, I lost my entire collection in one of my moves overseas. I could never create them again today; my hands are not still enough to make the tiny straight lines and my eyes would never be strong enough to keep everything straight. Today, I simply enjoy collectingpysanky and add a few to my collection every year. Every area in the Slavic world has their own style of eggs, I wish I could find samples of all of them.

Home-made shrink-wrapped pysanky on my Easter table.

Preparing "pysanky" Easter eggs.
I've also discovered a neat trick for simulating pysanky on my Easter table. You can buy psyanky "sleeves" wrap them over hard-boiled eggs, dip in boiling water for about 5 seconds and you have instant pysanky! You can't save them, but they sure do look pretty on an Easter table.

I bought my package of sleeves online from the Polish Art Center in Hamtramck, Michigan. Here is the link:

When we visited my grandmother in Detroit for Easter in the 1950s and 60s, we would always have cake after our traditional Polish breakfast of Easter soup. There would always be Polish poppy seed coffee cake, sometimes a cake made by my Aunt Hattie in the shape of a lamb and covered in coconut, or, my favorite, a cake from Sander's Bakery in Detroit. It would be a yellow cake with "buttercream" icing garnished with finely crushed hazelnuts. The icing was very light and smooth. A "nest" of green-colored coconut with a couple of chocolate malted milk Easter eggs would complete the cake.

Sander's No Butter, No Cream "Buttercream" Easter Cake!
My mother saved a recipe for the icing she found on the "Bob Allison's Ask Your Neighbor" radio program which still, after 50 years, is on the air in the Detroit area. Click here to go to their website. What's interesting about the recipe for the buttercream icing is that it does not contain any butter or cream! I've tweaked the recipe for the cake by adding orange zest and flavoring, and sometimes I substitute toasted sliced almonds in place of the hazelnuts, but the icing itself is always the same recipe.

Sander’s Easter Cake with Buttercream Icing

1 package Duncan Hines butter yellow cake mix

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

1/2 teaspoon orange flavoring

2 cups hazelnuts

Toast hazelnuts and remove skins. Chop finely in a food processor.

Bake cake as directed on the package adding the grated orange peel and flavoring to the batter before beating.

When cool, frost with Sander’s Buttercream Icing.

Gently pat hazelnuts on the side of the cake.

If desired, decorate with a “nest” of coconut dyed green and candy Easter eggs or jelly beans.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Sander’s Buttercream Icing

1 stick margarine

1/2 cup Crisco shortening

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup milk, lukewarm

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together the margarine and Crisco shortening. Add sugar, and then gradually add milk.

Beat on medium high speed for at least 15 minutes. For about the first 14 minutes the mixture will be very watery until suddenly the icing will congeal. Continue beating for a few minutes or until the icing is smooth.

Chill the icing for about an hour before icing the cake.

Note: If you can't find hazelnuts, sliced toasted almonds may be substituted instead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter 2011 -- Wesołego Alleluja!

Some pysanki from my collection. I try to add a couple if new ones every year.
It’s hard to believe that I started this blog just over a year ago. Thinking about Easters past was the incentive to put pencil to paper, spoon to bowl, and eye to camera. I spent many an Easter overseas and it never bothered me that I wouldn’t be experiencing the traditions of my younger years, but now that I am older it does bother me.
My Easter centerpiece--Lilies, roses and pussywillow.
I get pleasure out of recreating the recipes of my childhood and I have a need to write down my memories before they are forgotten. Someone described memories as “personal mythology”. I like that term, because my memory is imperfect. I remember my Aunt Sophie having a hat shop on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. My uncle says no, it wasn’t on Michigan, maybe on Warren. I remember my grandmother riding with me on the bus to the market in Detroit where she selected a chicken and we watched as they butchered it so she didn’t get a different scrawny bird. My uncle says, no, not true, my grandmother never ever rode the bus. She hated them. It must have been Aunt Sophie who went to the market. And so goes my mind. Playing tricks every now and then. We remember what we want to remember. Or we remember how we want our memories to be remembered.

Easter is very late this year and here in Florida the temperature is already almost 90 degrees. It’s very difficult to imagine spring, but just above my computer monitor I have a beautiful framed photograph of daffodils, tulips, and flowering trees from the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland to remind me what it looks like. For years, I carried around a heavy and expensive 35mm Nikon camera. I never took a good picture with it. I finally gave the camera to my brother, retrieving the roll of film left in it. That last roll of film contained the one and only beautiful picture I ever created—of daffodils, tulips, and flowering trees and a beautiful reminder of Earth’s renewal, the glory of spring, and the Christian concept of rebirth.

From the Keukenhof Gardens circa 1985.
This is a photo of the last photo taken with my 35 mm camera.
This Easter I will still dye the eggs, get the basket ready, take it to the local Catholic Church to have it blessed on Holy Saturday afternoon, attend Easter Sunday service (“with incense” as they describe it in their Easter Events schedule) at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and have our family’s traditional Easter breakfast soup with white sausage broth and chopped smoked meats, eggs, white cheese and rye bread. A recipe for the soup can be found in the April, 2010 section of this blog.

A Polish Easter basket ready to be blessed on Easter Saturday.
I ended up making the version with nut filling because when I got started
I realized I didn't have enough eggs, of all things, to do both versions!
I’ll finish breakfast with Poppy Seed Coffee Cake, a treat I enjoyed at many a Christmas and Easter.

Poppy Seed Coffee Cake (Strucla z Makiem)

1 package yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel (optional)
1 teaspoon flour

Poppy Seed Filling:
1 cup ground poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring milk to boiling point and add poppy seed. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring carefully, until milk is absorbed. Add sugar or honey. Beat egg thoroughly. Mix 1 tablespoon of hot poppy seed with egg and pour into cooked poppy seed. Stir until thick. Add vanilla. Must be thoroughly cooled before using.

Walnut Raisin Filling:
1 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup white raisins

Substitute walnuts for poppy seeds and proceed as in poppy seed filling recipe above. When cool add 1/2 cup white raisins.

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon hot milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dissolve yeast in 1 tablespoon warm water.

Cream butter with sugar.

Add salt to egg yolks and beat until thick.

Scald milk and cool to lukewarm.

Add beaten yolks to butter and sugar mixture.

Add yeast. Add flavoring and mix thoroughly. Add flour alternately with the milk and knead with hand until fingers are free of dough.

Let rise for about 2 hours or until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise again for one hour. Place dough on floured board and roll to one-half inch thickness into rectangular shape.

Optional: Dredge candied orange peel in flour, shaking off excess flour. Sprinkle orange peel over dough and lightly press into dough using rolling pin.

Spread with poppy seed (or nut raisin filling and roll like jelly roll, sealing all edges. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double in bulk. Note: 1 can of Solo Brand Poppy Seed Filling can be used if you don’t want to make your own.

Bake for 45 minutes.

When completely cool spread with confectioners’ sugar glaze.

This is the finished Nut Roll--so beautiful I can almost taste it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

10964 McKean Road, Willis, Michigan --- Kindergarten

I have kept a small, tattered, brown cardboard box for over forty years. Although I have moved many times; sometimes halfway around the world, I have never misplaced it. I know exactly where it is. It is the only tangible evidence I have of living on McKean Road as the label is addressed to my mother. The box had contained an iron that my mother had ordered from a catalog. I think I keep the box so that I will not forget our first address, 10964 McKean Road. Willis, Michigan.

Willis, Michigan was a small town in southeastern Michigan, about thirty miles from Detroit. There was a grocery market with a soda fountain; a hardware store; a barber shop; a convenience story that served as the Greyhound bus station, a farmer’s feedlot, and an oil delivery station, There were a couple of dozen houses and a couple of churches, but that was all. There was a railroad track that you had to cross to get into town. I think that someone was killed there, because they did not hear the train whistle. I cannot say this for certain.

Dad brought home chicks in the springtime. He fixed a box in the basement with a light bulb to keep the chicks warm. I know it bothered me that that in addition to the chicken feed, he fed the chicks chopped eggs. I felt sorry that the chicks were eating their possible sisters and brothers.

I have no memory of anything in my life before I was five years old. There are pictures of my parents and me in front of the big, red brick house. There are pictures taken on my first trip to Wisconsin when I was almost two. My mother told me a story about that trip. Along the way, they told me that they had forgotten my baby bottle at our cousin’s house in Wisconsin and that from then on I would have to drink from a glass, and I did. There are pictures taken at Christmas at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and aunts and uncles. Pictures are the only things I have left of that house at 10964 McKean. Pictures and that box.

My first day at kindergarten; I do not recall getting on the big, yellow, school bus that took us to school. When it was time to come home someone put a tag on my chest that let everyone know which bus I was to take home. They put me on the wrong bus. I was only five—what did I know? I only knew my address: “10964 McKean Road.” Everyone had been delivered safely home. I was the only one left on the bus. The bus driver asked me where did I live? I answered “10964 McKean Road.” “Show me your address!” She said. “You are on the wrong bus!” Makes no difference, I knew my address “10964 McKean Road.” The bus driver headed for McKean Road, I recognized my house and got off. My mother was frantic. I was over an hour late getting home. “What happened? Why are you so late?” I had no idea. I sprawled out on the dining room floor and “read” the comic section of the newspaper. My mother brought me a bowl of chicken soup. I ate it on the floor. I was oblivious to my mother’s questions.

I have only vague memories of my kindergarten teachers. It is only my imagination that I picture one as being tall and thin, the other being short and fat. Both had gray hair. One did have coiled braids wound tightly around her head.

My parents were called in for a conference with my kindergarten teachers. This was unusual. I came with them. I kept my head down and looked at my teachers’ shoes; they had the same shoes—black, lace-ups, tied in a bow. I did not look at the teachers, only at their shoes! I was amazed that they both wore the same shoes.

They told my parents that if their child was to succeed in America, they must never speak Polish to me again. My parents did not challenge teachers—certainly not as some parents do today. Polish was never spoken to me again. I had learned Polish as easily as I had learned English. My neighbor, Mrs. Gerak had babysat me. I had visited my grandmother everyday. They did not speak English—if I was to communicate with them, I had to learn Polish. And I did—what did I know?

My mother always gathered us in the hallway in our house on McKean Road and we said our evening prayers, in Polish, before the crucifix that hung in the hall. After that conference with my kindergarten teachers, we never said our prayers in Polish again—we said them in English. My mother, our extended family, and the neighbors only spoke Polish when there was gossip, gossip they did not want the children to understand. I had learned too much however and I still knew some Polish, so they had to be careful when I was around.

It was coming up to Easter. Our teachers had sent home a note, telling parents to send their child with one hard-boiled egg to decorate. I proudly carried my egg to school. We decorated our eggs with crayons. My egg was so beautiful. We made Easter baskets out of construction paper, colorful strips woven into basket shapes at the direction of our teachers. It was naptime. We were told to close our eyes and not to peek. I peeked. I saw the teachers fill our baskets with Easter grass, candies and our special egg. We were told that the Easter bunny had filled our baskets, but I knew who did it. It was not the Easter bunny at all!

We were on the bus going home. I held my basket triumphantly in my hand. I was carrying an Easter basket for my mother. The bus lurched to a stop. The paste, still wet, which was supposed to hold the basket together, gave way. My egg fell to the floor. I tried to get it, but it rolled right out the school bus door. I had no Easter egg for my mother. I yelled for the bus driver to stop, but the bus continued on. I was inconsolable. The egg was lost—I was being punished because I peeked, when I was told not to. I had nightmares about the egg rolling out the bus door for years afterward.

That was not the only nightmare I had. It was only one of the milder ones. I had nightmares about the Lone Ranger and Superman, except in these nightmares, they were the bad guys and they were coming to get me. The worst nightmare, the one that I feared the most, because after I awoke from it I was afraid to go back to sleep, involved a huge circulating vortex. It whirled and whirled. I was being sucked in, and I knew that when I reached the bottom I would die. I would wake up, shaking, afraid to fall asleep again in case the nightmare would reappear. I never told anyone about my nightmares.

My brother, Thomas, died before I entered kindergarten. Maybe things would have been different if he had not died. It was winter. It was the middle of the night. My father was working. There was a commotion in the house. Mrs. Gerak was there. Someone from the Gerak family was taking my mother and brother to the hospital. Too late, he died on the way. I do not know what caused his death. My mother did not talk much about it. I found out later that it was pneumonia, and it could have been cured. Suddenly my life changed.

This visitation for my brother was at Roberts Brothers funeral home in Belleville, Michigan. I have been there many times since, but this was the first time for me. There were flowers, so many flowers, in fancy arrangements. My brother was there. I asked if he was sleeping. No, they told me, he had gone to heaven, but he looked like he was sleeping.

We went to the cemetery. I was not with my parents. I was kept in the back with my Godmother, my Aunt Pauline. I wanted to see my mother, but Aunt Pauline would not let me. I do not know how I got home, but when I did I found my mother on the bed in my bedroom and the door was closed. I do not know where my father was. I opened the door. She was crying. She screamed at me: “Get out! Get out! Get out!” The last nightmare, the one that still haunts me, even today.

I was never hugged or kissed by mother after that day. It was not until I was an adult that I would hug her again. Then the hugs were different. They were the type of slightly awkward hug that acknowledged that this was my mother who should be hugged, not the hug that says I love you, care for you, and miss you. It was not our way.

Mom’s Macaroni
My ultimate comfort food--Mom's macaroni.
To me, the following recipe is the ultimate comfort food when I am feeling blue. Mom never served this with "real" Parmesan cheese. In fact, I never knew that Parmesan cheese came from anything except the Green Kraft can until I was an adult! But first, a story!

In the early days at the McKean Road house, Mom always hung the laundry out to dry when the weather was good. One early spring, when snow was still on the ground, she realized that she had lost the diamond from her engagement ring. She searched for hours, but finally gave up. Our neighbors, the Geraks, told her they would pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes, and a few weeks later, after the snow had melted, Mom noticed a bright, rainbow speck in the grass—it was her diamond!

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups macaroni
1  28 ounce can stewed tomatoes (I use the petite cut)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional) or Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the green can
Salt and pepper

Cook macaroni until firm, but done. Drain and rinse with cool water. Sauté onion in olive oil until golden, add ground beef and fry until done. Drain off fat.

Add tomatoes; chop them up if the pieces are too large. Bring to slow boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add macaroni. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to slow boil and shut off heat. Keep pan covered to let macaroni absorb the liquid.

I like eating this lukewarm with a healthy handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I am thinking about the night we were coming home from Detroit and as we got closer we saw this huge glow in the sky. Dad instinctively knew it was a fire, a farmer's worst nightmare. It looked like it was coming from our grandparents' farm. He sped up and as we got close to home it wasn't that barn, but old man Blazak's barn a half mile away. Dad parked nearby. There were dozens of cars, but it was too late. You could hear the animals screaming as they burned to death. Blazak had horses and cows inside. I had nightmares for months after that. We went back the next morning. There was nothing left. Just the concrete pad and burning embers. The barn was never rebuilt.

There are more stories. It was probably 1959. My dad's father, and my dad's stepbrother crash into each other at a curve not far from my grandparents' home on McKean Road. Both have to go the hospital. The accident is blamed on a tree at the roads' edge obscuring vision around the curve. My mother is on the phone calling the Washtenaw County Road Commission to cut down the tree. They refuse. She tells them that the tree is going to be cut down blocking the road. It is a dangerous curve. It could have been a school bus. The County officials threaten to send the sheriff. Whoever cuts the tree down will go to jail. Sawhorses are set up at the junctions of McKean Road and Judd and Talladay Roads warning that the road is closed. Neighbors and family gather. Everyone has saws and axes. A newspaper is called. A reporter comes. A sheriff deputy appears. The tree has been felled. Cousins and uncles and neighbors sit on the tree, saws and axes in hand. Everyone claims responsibility. A photo is taken. The deputy doesn't arrest anyone. A couple of days later the county removes the tree. The sawhorses are taken down. I wish I still had that picture from the newspaper.

I think it was 1960, late summer. My dad was testing a kerosene lamp in the garage. I don't know the occasion, but it must have been a huge party. Dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins were there. The party went on forever. As dusk came, the adults were dancing in the garage by the light of the kerosene lamp. The cousins and I were rolling down the swale in front of our house. I was so dizzy from rolling over and over. It will be the last party I recall at 10964 McKean Road.

My grandfather died in 1961. It must have been late winter. My mother sewed a black armband around my winter coat. I was in one of the first cars and looked back at the cortege of cars behind us, as we made our way up from the Roberts Brothers Funeral Home to St. Anthony's Church in Belleville, Michigan. The line of cars stretched forever, purple funeral flags fluttering. It was the end of an era. There would not be such a line of cars again.

There were issues, so many issues. My father bought the headstone for my grandparents. The stonemaker coming to the house with his book of samples. He leafed through the book. I watched as my father picked out the images and text that would go on the tablet.There would be no more parties at the house on McKean Road. The family, on my father’side had been riven. It would only get worse. The decision was made to leave the farm. It would be years before I saw some of my cousins again. Some I would never see. Some I would never know.

It was the Christmas of 1962. We would be moving to Belleville the following summer. My dad had the attic renovated to include two bedrooms and a half bath. I had the big bedroom. It was so lonely up there. I asked if I could have a Christmas tree in my room. “No way. Too expensive,” he said. And then, just before Christmas my dad came home with a tree. He said he was following a truck of Christmas trees and as it went over the railroad tracks in Belleville a tree came loose and fell off and he stopped and picked it up. He couldn't believe it. Here was the tree for my room! I am sure it was a tall tale. But I had my Christmas tree! I couldn't believe he had such heart. And then I demanded a radio. It was too scary and quiet alone by myself in the upstairs room cut off from the family. “No way, too expensive,” I was told by my dad.

We made our annual trek to Florida Street that Christmas Eve. I was depressed. I was twelve and here weren't toys for me anymore, only shirts and socks and other useful things. I watched with sadness as my sisters tore into their toys and games.

When I awoke on Christmas morning, on my desk there was a clock radio! I think it was an RCA. It was white, and big, and had gold trim. And it picked up CKLW from Windsor, Ontario, clear as a bell! I could listen to MoTown songs whenever I wanted to. It was the greatest Christmas gift ever! How did it get there? Dad must have put it there while we were packed in the car, ready for the trip to Detroit. I never noticed it when I got home, because it was so late.

Maybe I didn't appreciate my dad enough.

The Christmas tree.

The radio.

You always have second thoughts about how much your dad loved you until you are too old, and he is gone.

Calves Liver with Coffee Gravy

This is a strange sounding recipe, but oh so good! Absolutely do NOT substitute beef liver for this recipe—it is too tough, and has too strong a flavor. Do not let the coffee in the recipe stop you from making this dish. It will not taste at all like coffee when it is done. Also, don't overcook the liver. Many people do not like liver because they had only eaten dried-out over-cooked beef liver!

1 pound calves’ liver
1 to 2 cups milk
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
Flour for dredging
Salt and pepper

Cover calf liver with milk and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. Drain and pat dry.

In large frying pan, sauté onions in butter until golden. Remove with slotted spoon, trying to leave as much butter in the pan as possible. Add vegetable oil.

Slice liver into 1x2 inch strips. Salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour.

Place strips in single layer in frying pan. Fry briefly on each side for a couple of minutes until golden brown, but still pink. Combine water and brewed coffee. Pour over liver. Add onions. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, not more than 5 minutes, or the liver will turn tough.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

Fat Tuesday! Polish Paczki Day!

Fat Tuesday, Polish, Paczki, Detroit
My Aunt Sophie and my grandmother "Babci" would make these at Easter, but they take a lot of work to make. I am happy to find them here in Florida at my local Publix supermarkets.

It is the weekend before the beginning of Lent, a forty day period of fasting, sacrifice, and penance for those who are devout Catholics. My remembrance of Lent was of dry fish sticks, only marginally better than cardboard, with a little ketchup on them if we were lucky. We did have, on occasion, beet soup and potato pancakes, recipes I will post in the next few weeks.

A treat I did remember was Paczki, Polish jelly-filled doughnuts that were traditionally made on Fat Tuesday, except that in Detroit in the 1950s everyone had to work during the week, so my Grandmother and Aunt made them on the Saturday before Lent began.

Along the stairwell leading to the partially finished attic in the house on Florida Street, was a cutout pantry where many of the kitchen utensils were stored. I was especially amazed at the wealth and the large sizes of the mixing bowls, every color, size, and shape imaginable. The big bowls were brought out to make the Paczki.

They were nothing like typical jelly doughnuts found in a supermarket deli or even a doughnut shop. These were big, hearty, orbs of dense, rich, eggy pastry, often filled with jelly, usually raspberry, or sometimes only with a handful of white raisins in the dough.

Paczki are very labor and time intensive. The recipe I provide below is from our family, but I have never made them. In fact, I don’t remember having seen Paczki being made. I only saw and savored the end result! I called my sister before posting and even she, the great cook that she is, doesn’t make them by hand, but orders them from a bakery in Detroit.

I have no such nearby bakery, but this year our local supermarket, had something they called Paczki. They weren’t as brown or as dense or as rich as those of my childhood, but they will have to do. If you do make my recipe I would love to hear your comments. on how they turned out.

Polish Doughnuts (Paczki)

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 whole egg and 3 yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1/2 cup raspberry jam
Optional: 1/4 cup white raisins

Dissolve yeast in water. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, gradually beat in egg and egg yolks. Add yeast mixture, vanilla, orange rind and salt. Gradually add flour, blend ingredients well, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Set aside in warm place until doubled. On floured board roll out until 1/2 inch thick. Cut into circles with glass or biscuit-cutter.

Place a spoonful of raspberry jam at center of each circle, fold in half, pinch and roll into balls snowball fashion.

Fry in hot oil or shortening until dark brown. Transfer to paper towels. When cool dust with powdered sugar.

Note: For a lighter texture, the formed and filled paczki can be set in a warm place to rise once again before frying.
Paczki come in several flavors, but I like the raspberry filling best.